Author Archives: Nathaniel

Transition Inspiration from Port Washington NY

Transition Town Port Washington (on the northern shore of Long Island NY) is hard at work educating its community and collaborating with like-minded organizations to carry out so many things that we too believe in: climate action as a member of Communities United to Reduce Emissions 100% (CURE); plastics reduction (with a recent very informative article on “Plastics: The Everlasting Epidemic“; divesting from fossil fuel investments (which the the $226 billion NY state pension fund is actually doing); and much more. We thank them for the inspiration!

West Chester Area Transition: Roots and Branches

West Chester Area Transition, the latest initiative of the WC Green Team, is now fully functional, with regular meetings, three programs underway, and two more in the planning.

In January 2021, a group of Green Team leaders and friends engaged in a brainstorming activity following the guidelines of the international Transition movement, which asks:  “What does your town need?”  Out of this activity came fice ideas which were discussed and narrowed down to three for 2021. 

First, we decided that the community needed more community gardens and now we have added three.  We have been working with Barclay Friends, the Lockard family and the Melton Center on this project, whose coordinators are Elizabeth Schultz, Nathaniel Smith and Ashlie Delshad.

As part of this outreach, the Green Team asked two of our hosts, Barclay Friends and the Melton Center: “What can we do for you?”  At Barclay we are teaching gardening skills to the staff, growing herbs to be used in the residents’ dining hall, and providing a concert in the garden for residents and gardeners and their families, with local favorite Stephanie Markstein performing there on August 14.

At the Melton Center, we agreed to provide children’s programming and are now busy getting all the details in place for eight evening events.  The series begins on Monday, June 21, with a planting activity led Elizabeth Schultz, our summer intern.  Subsequent programs will include a folk tale about peaches from Japan, one on how pumpkins grow, another on beneficial insects, and finally an ice cream party–with no-dairy options–along with stories from New Zealand.  

Another Transition initiative is Living Landscapes, in which a team led by Courtney Finneran is piloting removing grass and planting pollinators.

Our other current initiative is cutting down on plastics. Another of Prof. Schraedley’s communications classes reached out to about 60 restaurants and businesses in the Borough and about plastics reduction in the context of the Borough’s Sustainable Storefronts initiative (see more details and update here).

If you would like to volunteer to help out in any of these programs, or would like to donate to these good causes, please contact Margaret at mhudings@gmail.com.

WC Green Team / WC Area Transition 20212 yard sign

Have you seen our Transition sign in yards yet?  It shows many colored hands with blossoming flowers and the  words “Rising to the Challenges of Our Time.”  The beautiful image was created by Transition US and happily shared with us. This sign was unveiled on Earth Day at West Chester University by Mayor Jordan Norley and his wife Rani.  WCU representatives in attendance included Director of Sustainability Brad Flamm, and Prof Megan Schraedley.  In addition, Nathaniel Smith represented the GT.  Dr. Schradley and West Chester GT activist and Tree Team head Courtney Finneran were recognized for their environmental leadership and presented the keys to the Borough by Mayor Norley.

See the text of Rani Norley’s well-received unveiling speech to explain the sign along with other Earth Day info and images here.

More background

Did you know that nearby Media and Phoenixville are Transition Towns?  Transition began in England in 2009.  The motivating idea was that the world is moving beyond fossils fuels and needs to work on resilience, solidarity, and mutual support in our communities.  

The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroots community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. Transition is specific to the needs of each community.  Media has a free store housed in a Methodist Church where people can drop off unwanted items and pick up what they need.  A donation box brings in enough money to cover the utilities, and everyone is happy with it.  Media also sponsors many celebrations designed to foster community and bring the town together–such as Winter Solstice celebrations. 

Phoenixville already had a work barter system (a common Transition idea), so has sponsored pop-up repair cafes where they serve coffee, repair items, and teach repair skills.  Central to Transition thinking is zero waste and teaching skills.  Transition in Phoenixville works in parallel with their Green Team.  

In West Chester, when we brought up adding in Transition thinking to our Green Team work, the idea arose of a free store–but many felt that Buy Nothing West Chester is already doing a good job with that (if your family is not already a member, we suggest you look into joining on Facebook).  We looked into housing the store at the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship on West Gay St,. but they are now closed because of the pandemic, so we put that idea on hold.

Another idea was to sponsor a community-wide festival–maybe around Earth Day.  Paula Kline suggested front porch music–as she was involved with such a festival in New Haven CT.  Everybody loved this image for West Chester’s front porches.  We brainstormed ideas and reached out to a couple of locations.  Rev. Dan Schatz of Unitarian Congregation, a musician in the Appalachian mountain tradition–and a very good one–suggested that this April is too soon to do such a festival.  And so, the consensus was to postpone it.  We are looking to offer it in April of ’22 and already have support from 3 Borough locations.  We hope to offer it all around the town and involve graphic art and drama as well as music. 

So the festival idea is on hold till next year, though this year’s Earth Day included an initial step, with people viewing sidewalk chalk art in town and recycled art on the terrace at the Chester County History Center, thanks to students in one of Prof. Megan Schraedley’s classes.

For programs we launched in 2021, see above. For our earlier planning phase, see here.

Updating recent WC Green Team activities: Earth Day, Plastics

Earth Day

Earth Day in West Chester Borough was a resounding success for the Green Team. This year the WCGT partnered with West Chester University Assistant Professor of Communication Megan Schraedley and her class of organizational communication students. This partnership resulted in a dynamic Art Festival and Stroll event, spreading the word about Earth Day and sustainability in the Borough. Dr. Schraedley and her students helped plan the Earth Day Art Festival & Stroll which took place on April 22nd throughout the Borough.

This event had two parts. The first part showcased sustainable art pieces digitally on our Instagram page and in-person at the Chester County Historical Center. The second part featured an in-person sidewalk chalking event along High Street. At the CCHC, local students and artists created several nature-themed art pieces for display. These pieces used natural and upcycled materials such as plastic water bottles, found wood, clay, and cardboard to bring public awareness to nature’s beauty as well as how to find other uses for single-use materials. Please check out our Instagram page, @wc_green_team, to see these works of art.

In addition, the WCU students marketed and planned a successful sidewalk chalking event that took place on April 22nd along High Street. Families, schoolchildren, college students, business owners, and other local organizations came together to participate in this community event.

In total, we estimated over 100 people came out to support Earth Day and the WCGT, including the mayor of the Borough, Jordan Norley, who publicly recognized the West Chester Green Team’s sustainability work by presenting us with the keys to the city. The WCGT unveiled our new Transition sign (check out more info about Transition here) and Mayor Norley spoke highly of the work the WCGT is doing to improve quality of life in the Borough.

For more info and images of Earth Day, including noteworthy remarks by Rani Norley, see here.

Plastics-Free Please

This spring, the West Chester Green Team informed businesses in the Borough about how to acquire a Sustainable Storefronts certification, available through the Borough’s Sustainability Advisory Council. This voluntary certification available for retail businesses and restaurants is an important step towards eliminating single-use plastics in the Borough.

To tackle this issue, the WCGT partnered with Megan Schraedley, an Assistant Professor of Communication at WCU, and one of her organizational communication classes to contact local businesses. Together, we contacted dozens of businesses in the Borough and spoke with them about sustainability and the Sustainable Storefronts program. From these conversations, we helped the following local businesses become Sustainable Storefronts certified: Dia Doce, Meatball U, Bryn Mawr Running Co., Dolce Zola, 5 Senses, and Hop Fidelity.

Many thanks to these businesses for jumping on board with sustainability and joining the Sustainable Storefronts program! They are leaders for the future of the community. Be sure to thank them for joining the next time you visit any of these establishments. You can see other businesses who have joined at the Borough’s site.

Later this year, we hope to recognize these businesses for joining the Sustainable Storefronts program, so please be on the lookout for more information.

See also the Plastic-Free Please Facebook page here.

West Chester Area Transition

See information on our latest initiative here.

Mondays at Melton program for kids

This is our joint summer program with the Melton Center for children age 5-10 affiliated with our community gardening program or the Melton Center or just interested in exciting and educational Monday evening activities. 7pm, Mondays, June 21 – August 9. More info: mhudgings@gmail.com.

Here’s what our June 21 activity with Elizabeth Schultz will look like (a few days after the cress seeds are planted in decorated pots; for our detailed instructions on making your own, see here):

Notes against spraying Bifenthrin

by Alexa Manning at West Chester Green Team rally, June 12, 2021 (for prospective spray locations, see here)

Recently, it has come to our attention that the PA Dept of Agriculture plans to spray the active ingredient Bifenthrin (product name Talstar Professional Insecticide) for the spotted lantern fly (SLF) on thirteen locations in Chester County.

Bifenthrin is a broad-spectrum pyrethroid insecticide that kills insects indiscriminately, including beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators. This pesticide was registered for use by the EPA in 1985, is in more than 600 products in the U.S. and is classified by the EPA as a possible carcinogen. It interferes with the nervous system of insects that eat it, touch it, or breathe it in. Bifenthrin binds to the soil and has the potential to contaminate surface waters through runoff. It is highly toxic to insects and aquatic organisms such as fish and arthropods. Though toxicity is lower to birds and mammals exposed directly to it, there are potential risks if they eat aquatic organisms because bifenthrin can accumulate in fish and last a long time in the environment.

Information provided to us from the PA Dept of Ag states that they and the USDA continue to support research into biological and other control methods for the SLF. They follow the principles of integrated pest management (IPM) using cultural, mechanical, biologic and targeted chemical treatment techniques available including implementing a quarantine to limit SLF spread, the use of traps, reduction of the favorite host Tree of Heaven, and application of a systemic insecticide to it. These efforts have slowed the spread of the SLF since it was discovered in Berks County in 2014; however, since then the SLF range has expanded significantly.

The decision was made to add this new contact spray into the IPM program this year. Spraying will occur between June and October on properties exhibiting a high risk of enabling long-distance spread of the insect and tend to be on habitats that are highly degraded such as near rail hubs, airports, and industrial centers, with the permission of the property owner/land manager. No set treatment dates are established yet. People listed on the Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry and beekeepers will be notified in advance of spraying.

With the assistance of state representatives and their staff we are waiting to obtain more information from the Dept of Ag about the following questions about this spraying program.

• How far in advance will individuals on the Pesticide Hypersensitivity registry be notified? Will the public be notified in advance?

• What is the notification process and responsibilities of local, county, and state government and private property owners to the public regarding the spraying schedule in advance, at the time, and afterwards?

• Will public signs be posted and what are the other ways notification will take place?

• Who is paying for the spraying?

• Where and how were these specific locations identified and decided upon?

• Where else in PA is the spraying program happening?

• Is there a public comment period?

• What is the current research that states that a pesticide (and this specific one) will be effective in stopping the spread of SLF? If so, where and when did the research and any trials take place?

• If the spraying is targeted to specific locations, how will the effects be monitored and analyzed and for what length of time?

• Have the public and environmental health effects of spraying bifenthrin as well any other pesticides been documented and reported?

• In municipal locations, are schools and public property such as parks and open space affected? Which municipalities have approved this spraying?

These are some of the questions that need to be addressed by the government. Other concerns are welcome.

I would like to share that I am listed on the PA Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry for health reasons. The law requires the people on the registry are to be notified by government and private entities of pesticide applications within 500 feet of one’s property at least one day in advance. In April 2020 we had the unfortunate experience when our entire property (we don’t use pesticides or fertilizers and grown organic plants for food and pollinators) was broadcast sprayed with a chemical mixture of pesticides and fertilizers by a chemical lawn service company. The employee who sprayed did not check the address and did not confirm with the customer next door where this service was contracted. I was not notified by the company in advance of the next-door neighbor’s spraying. Any of these measures could have prevented this from happening.

After I contacted the company and the Dept of Ag, the region Field Pesticide officer contacted me and investigated this incident. We received compensation from the company to rebuild vegetable raised beds, and some of the impacted treated soil in our pollinator gardens. There is the concern that there is pesticide residue in the soil. We would like to have a yard where what we grow and eat is healthy and safe. I hope this never happens again.

Since March, I have received 40 notifications from several chemical lawn treatment companies that regularly service residential properties near us. Unfortunately, there are other companies who have not notified me as is required by law. Then I follow up with them and the Dept of Ag.

Another concern is that companies who apply pesticides are not required by the state to post a sign that an area has been treated. This is only a courtesy. There are many times that I have walked near or on a border of a property that was recently sprayed as was the case when I walked across our front lawn the day we were sprayed in error. This is concerning for everyone, especially people on the registry, children and pets on public parks and private properties. This is the least that we can do: signs need to be posted on public property in advance with the time of application, the name of the pesticide and/or fertilizer, and when it is safe to go on the area.

Pennsylvania needs to allow local and country governments the right to enact and enforce ordinances and regulations to ban or restrict the use of pesticides and fertilizers. State preemption is antithetical to local rule and denies citizens their rights for the public good. This applies to many other issues.

These issues need to be addressed. Please contact your state representatives and the PA Dept of Agriculture now for answers to concerns about SLF spraying, notifications and related issues that prevent local and county governments from making direct decisions.

There are many harmful environmental and health concerns regarding the ubiquitous use of pesticides and fertilizers on land, air, and water in residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial locations. Since the 1950s their use is widespread and commonplace with tremendous ramifications to our health and safety. There are safe, proven alternatives and many resources available. This is a critical environmental issue that affects all of us. We need to take appropriate actions to protect our health and safety. Thank you for concern and for your advocacy.

Summer 2021 community gardening program

Our vision of making garden beds available to people who need them has become a reality!

Getting plants started at Melton, 5/24/21

The Melton Center’s community garden includes five households with individual plots and five plots dedicated for youth programming. The garden has been under construction since April, and planting began on Saturday, May 22nd. We are excited to see the fruits, veggies, and flowers the garden will produce as well as the connections the participants build through gardening together. 

Green Team Garden Coordinator Elizabeth Schultz performs some needed maintenance at Barclay Friends, 6/13/21

In a similar spirit of collaboration, at Barclay Friends Senior Living on N. Franklin St., beds are gardened by both Barclay staff and Green Team gardeners.

More updates soon as the season advances!

For more info on the Green Team’s and other groups’ community garden initiatives, see here.

Growing (Veggies) Together: West Chester’s New Community Gardens

Thanks to Hello, West Chester, 6/3/21, for this great description of our and other groups’ summer community gardening programs:

New raised beds at the Melton Center.West Chester offers relatively few community garden plots considering the number of renters and homes with limited acreage.

As one side of the Melton Center property on E. Miner Street is being cemented over on its way to becoming ten townhouses and a four-story, 41-unit affordable apartment complex. The other side is being subdivided into 10 4’ x 4’ raised-bed plots. Over the last year, the community fixture since 1934 has been busy maximizing its physical presence to continue its mission of contributing to “the quality of life for all people of the greater West Chester community.” Which today means trying to tackle a couple of rather lofty goals: affordable housing and food insecurity.

While every row home that sells over asking price serves as a reminder of the borough’s need for affordable housing, one might not think putting food on the table would be a problem in the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, but you’d be wrong….

read more at Hello, West Chester

Earth Day a colorful event in West Chester

By Bill Rettew, Daily Local News, 4/22/21

WEST CHESTER — Colorful chalk drawings covered much of the red bricks and concrete sidewalks along High Street to celebrate and recognize Thursday’s 51st Earth Day.

Kyle Hudson, candidate for mayor, chatted up the passersby midway down High Street and in front of the Methodist Church during Chalk the Walk. Earth Week events were organized through the grassroots West Chester Green Team.

“We only have one earth, there is no planet B,” was etched with chalk into the sidewalk at Hudson’s feet.

Former Mayor and state Rep. Dianne Herrin, D-156th, of West Chester, mingled with about two dozen Friends School students at the north end of High Street….

read more at Daily Local News